Documentarian Behind ‘Badass Librarians of Timbuktu’ On How She Transforms An Idea Into Film


December 10, 2019


Culture, Politics


Photo Credit: Harry Montas – Bronx Documentary Center

NEW YORK – From producing, directing and handling a camera, this successful Somali-American, award-winning filmmaker is making headlines. Idil Ibrahim has worked on and produced film projects that have gone on to screen at the top international film festivals and is also a recipient of the 2017 Extraordinary Women Awards held by the 92Y. She was also selected as one of OkayAfrica’s “100 Women” for 2018.

She was most recently in Mali as a producer of the feature documentary, The Badass Librarians of Timbuktu, based on the New York Times bestselling book of the same title, which is a must-read.

The Click interviewed Ibrahim at a filmmaking workshop that she offered at the Bronx Documentary Center on November 9th. The workshop explored bringing a film story idea to fruition. Ibrahim provided examples of development, pre-production, production, and post-production. Ibrahim also discussed the amount of work that goes into creating some of her films, which is proof that dedication and perseverance are key in the completion of a film project. Ibrahim said that “Something may always go wrong; it’s not about the issue but about what is my greatest solution.”

Ibrahim has always had a passion for storytelling, but her love for filmmaking arose during college. A professor by the name of Lanie Dink really taught and inspired her students to tell a story from start to finish, and this inspired her. 

In regard to having such a low ratio of women filmmakers in the film industry, she said, “Men have dominated the workplace in many sectors, and film is no exception.  This sector is not very diverse; however, we have to be very intentional about changing the status quo and breaking into this industry. It’s definitely not always easy, and it can be daunting when people don’t look like you, but people need to be persistent.”  

As a suggestion to aspiring women filmmakers who may be fearful of entering the industry, Ibrahim stated “ any big project can be daunting; however, tangible steps to break in are necessary, and there are many tools to bring something to life.  If that means using your cell phone to tell your story and getting exposure, that can be your tool.”      

In terms of work-life balance, Ibrahim stated that her film work has her traveling a lot both domestically and internationally.  However, she would not trade it for the world, because she is passionate about her work and enjoys traveling and meeting new people, and it’s added a bonus that she gets to do what she enjoys as part of her work.  “The beauty of film is that sometimes you are out in the field filming, producing or directing, and sometimes you are in the office crafting, so there is an actual balance” as per Ibrahim. 

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